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How to Choose the right market for your farm produce

market for fresh produce

Small scale farmers in Kenya tend to plant first and look for market afterwards.

It is important to locate the target market and establish the degree of competition before a farmer puts the crop in so that his/her rewards can be fully reaped with the harvest.

Farmers in Kenya ought to decide where they will sell their produce, what the market wants from them and how this fits into their budget.

There are several different pathways fresh produce might follow to the end consumer. It all depends on the choice of market the farmer chooses.

Indirect Selling

If a farmer has a more introvert personality and don’t like dealing with a lot of people, this might be his/her preferred option.

Indirect sales institutions have strict requirements for producers, and may require Global G.A.P. certification, where a farmer must produce according to a strict set of regulations that applies to the pesticides a farmer uses, fertilizer, water quality and labor conditions. There could be a delay in payments when using indirect methods.

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Wholesale Marketing

With wholesale marketing a farmer is selling all his/her crops to one place, like a store, restaurant, co-op or market. This is one of the fastest ways to sell your harvest, but it won’t bring in the same profits compared to more direct methods.

At terminal wholesale markets in urban areas your agricultural produce is traded to the buyers. These markets have the advantage of high concentration for supply and demand, with larger volumes traded.

It is important to note that wholesale buyers expect high quality, consistency, timely delivery, sorted crops and clean products. This market is more vulnerable to variability.

When a farmer plants seasonal crops, it means a farmer will compete with several other producers in the market, leading to lower prices.

At wholesale markets, a farmer competes with several other farmers and their produce, and the price a farmer gets depends on the current market demand and might vary from day to day.

Processing Markets

Processing is quite costly, and this means most of the processing of fresh produce is done by large companies, since processors need to keep their unit costs low to stay competitive. Expect to sell his/her produce at lower prices.

When a farmer produces for a processing market, a farmer usually has to deliver according to a contract that was set up before planting that specifies the type and amount of vegetables or fruit a farmer produces and deliver.
It is a sure way to sell his/her  produce, with a fixed income at the end of the season and it allows a farmer to plan ahead for the next planting season. Processing plants need large volumes of produce for processing, and usually at a cheaper cost.

Supermarkets and Food Retailers

Food retailers are normally interested in locally produced vegetables, as it promises the freshest product on their shelves, and shows community support.

These markets vary from farm stalls, independent, locally-owned grocery stores to large grocery chains.

Large chain stores have defined methods of buying in their products and have specific requirements. It might be challenging to persuade his local chain store to sell his produce, since purchasing usually requires approval from regional or central management.

The prices are also likely to be linked to regional prices rather than local prices. High quality is expected, and produce might be rejected if it is not up to standard at delivery.

The advantage is that a farmer can sell his produce in bulk, on a weekly basis. Depending on the crops a farmer plant and the size of the farm, a farmer may have to spend extra time and money on cleaning and packaging as well as branding.

When a farmer is selling his produce at a local produce, remember that the name of the brand of the supermarket is also at stake. Therefore, farmer’s produce must be fresh and of good quality.

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Food Service Buyers or Institutions

These include schools, colleges, nursing homes, hospitals or prisons that have to produce food at low cost which translates into low prices for farmer’s produce. These institutions usually have requirements and food safety regulations that must be kept up.

It does provide a farmer with a secure end point for his/her produce.

Restaurant Sales

Most restaurants will pay a premium for quality local products, especially for specialty produce that are not readily available in local supermarkets.

A good personal relationship with the chef is important to ensure they turn to a farmer for their fresh produce need. The chef must be regularly updated with your planting and harvesting schedule, since they run a tight schedule. Quality is of key importance, as well as reliable, timely delivery.
Remember chefs are busy, and try to contact them outside of mealtimes or when they are preparing for meals.

Direct Sales

This is a direct method used to sell your product to customers and can be very time consuming for farmers. If a farmer is a good planner and like to talk to people, this method can work for you. Remember, someone should permanently man the stand, like you, the farmer, a family member or someone hired at extra cost, to do the selling.

There is no middleman involved that eats away at your profits, but there could be a rental cost. This method is more profitable, and a farmer gets paid directly, but takes up more time.

Farmers’ Market or Community Market

Many people go to these markets to get the freshest vegetables available. Ensure the market is popular with locals and located in a busy place. The market must also be clean and well managed.

A farmer will compete with other farmers and their displays, so be sure that his/her offer stands out with variety, quality and freshness as well as something extra like a sauce or product made from his/her vegetables.


  • Display is very important; group all same colored vegetables together. Bright colors like yellow or red will catch the eye of your customer.
  • A farmer can also make up some packages, recipes or staple vegetables in bargain packages.
  • Add a sign with the name of your farm or name of your business, so people can recognize your stand or see the pricing for your products. Be creative.

There you go, before embarking on this noble course of feeding people, ensure you have identified your market and the other things will be easier to do.